Many Americans were horrified last summer when they learned about migrants and their children fleeing their native countries being separated at the southern border of the United States.
That’s when Pleasantville resident Andrea Garbarini decided to spring into action. She got into a car along with recent film school graduates Jacob Nemec and Dylan Franks, who are also Pleasantville residents, and traveled to the border town of McAllen, Texas to help the new arrivals and document what she saw.
She was inspired by an article she had read about the grassroots group, Grannies Respond, which had formed last spring in Beacon, Dutchess County, to protest the separation of migrant children and parents. Since its formation, Grannies Respond has turned into a national movement.
“I felt passionate about the issue of family separation,” Garbarini said. “I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to come to this country seeking asylum, distraught, taking risks and possibly death to get here, and some of them spending every last cent that they have, and then they come to a country seeking asylum and then basically the children were separated from their parents.”
Once Garbarini decided to make the trip, she, Nemec and Franks followed the grandmothers in a van. Eight days later they arrived in McAllen.
What she documented during her time at the border is now a 35-minute documentary, “From Beacon to the Border.” It will be screened next Thursday, Mar. 7 at the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church as part of the next program for Films on Purpose. The Pleasantville-based organization, which Garbarini co-founded, screens films addressing social justice issues at local venues, followed by a panel discussion.
For the third time in 14 screenings, Films on Purpose will partner with Neighbors Link. Garbarini will be joined by Neighbors Line Executive Director Carola Bracco and one of the grandmothers in the film for the discussion.
Garbarini said during her time at the border, from late July into August, Grannies Respond brought backpacks filled with basic supplies, including food and toiletries, and distributed them to the migrants. They have now established what they call an “overground railroad,” where they head to bus stations on the United States side of the border and hand out supplies.
Many of that are allowed enter with potentially credible asylum claims are now being dropped off at the bus stations with virtually nothing. Once there, most still have long journeys to meet their sponsor families somewhere in the United States, Garbarini said.
She called the bus stations “the new Ellis Island.”
“It’s so sad,” Garbarini said. “They show up with little plastic bags. They have nothing and they spent all their money to get here.”
Kathleen Williamson, another Films on Purpose co-founder, said one of the purposes of the event is to help local residents understand what they can do to help new immigrants. A good place to start is to volunteer for the Mount Kisco-based Neighbors Link, Williamson said.
“I can’t believe the journey these people take just to find dignity, respect and a better life,” Williamson said.
This is the second time Garbarini has been involved in the making of a documentary. In 2011, she co-produced “From the Ground Up” with three other 9/11 widows whose firefighter husbands were killed at the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
This time, however, Garbarini was responsible for the film’s direction and production.
“What I hope (the viewers) take away is a better understanding of immigration, issues that face us, knowing that it’s, I think, it’s always the right thing to show empathy, compassion for your fellow human being and try to put yourself in their shoes,” Garbarini said.
There will be a reception at 6 p.m., an hour before the screening. It is free and the community is invited. The Pleasantville Presbyterian Church is located at 400 Bedford Rd. in Pleasantville. For more information, visit www.filmsonpurpose.org.